With this blog post, I am NOT personally advocating that you should go out and replace your car’s radiator. I personally would take my car into the professionals at J-Mac Car Care, but for all you DIY-ers out there here’s how to do it yourself!
Step 1: Gather your tools! You will need a 3/8″ drive ratchet and socket set, Phillips and flat screw drivers, a good pair of pliers, end wrenches, and a pair of gloves. J-Mac Car Care professionals recommend having both the SAE and metric sizes on the sockets and screwdrivers in different lengths.
Step 2: Survey around your radiator. You need to note what’s around your radiator. Knowing what’s around it and what will be disturbed will be critical for knowing how to put it back together after you take it apart. It’s also important to make sure you have the correct tools for the job. J-Mac’s experts recommend making notes on where everything goes to make sure it goes back in the right place.
Step 3: Remove the parts around the top part of the radiator. Make sure you keep track of all your hardware! This includes all the nuts, bolts, clamps, braces and supports.
Step 4: Unplug the cooling fan(s) and remove them. Some cars have one electric cooling fan while others have two. Whether your car has one or two, both will need to be removed before replacing the radiator. First, unplug the fan(s). Then, unscrew them from the radiator frame. Last, carefully lift the fan(s) from the mount(s) and set the fan(s) aside, keeping track of the corresponding hardware.
Step 5: Drain the radiator. To drain your radiator, place a catch-pan underneath the radiator. Take off the radiator cap and unscrew the valve to the drain. You can expect two or more gallons of coolant. Please make sure you dispose of the coolant safely. It’s toxic to animals, so save a little furry creature’s life!
Step 6: Disconnect the upper and lower radiator hoses. Unless you’re replacing the radiator hoses as well, you should only have to disconnect the end of the hoses that attach to the radiator. Make sure to leave the clamps on the hoses for your convince. Catch any excess coolant left in the hoses in a small bucket. Remember, save a furry life!
Step 7: If your car has an automatic transmission, disconnect the cooling lines. Located along the lower part of the radiator back, disconnect using an open-end wrench to loosen the couplings. Make sure to catch any transmission fluid that runs out of the lines.
Step 8: Remove any screws holding the radiator in place. Most of the screws or bolts will be found near the top or sides of the radiator. Also check the bottom of the radiator; sometimes there will be fasteners at the bottom. There are also tabs and pegs at the bottom.
Step 9: Remove the radiator. Once you have removed all the fasteners, hoses, and cables, then you can lift the radiator out. If you can’t are having any difficulty lifting the radiator, don’t force it – stop and look for any additional parts or screws that may still be attached.
Step 10: Compare your new radiator to your old one. This seems like common sense, but really, if more people remembered step 10, less people would have problems! Match the size, tab locations, ports, and screw holes are all located in the same places. If not, don’t try to install that radiator. Get a new one.
Step 11: Install your new radiator. If everything checks out with your new radiator, put it right into place. Make sure to reconnect everything back to your radiator, including hoses, lines, clamps, braces and supports.
Step 12: Refill your coolant. Check for leaks by starting your car. Make sure you warm the engine and check your transmission fluid before hitting the streets and showing off your hard work!
Again, this job isn’t for the faint of heart, but it can be done. If you’re feeling up to the task, give it a whirl, but for all of you other folks, bring in your car to the professionals at J-Mac Radiator. They’ll take care of you and your car!